Virginia Clay Festival

In 2015, the Artisans Center of Virginia held it’s bi-annual conference, and on the opening day, they held a meeting of juried artisans and other interested folks to discuss the trail systems, Open Door Tours and other related issues that they promote and to share ideas about how things work. As per usual, when I attend a retreat or a conference or meeting, I will take one of my own mugs to use while there instead of drinking out of styrofoam or disposable cups. A gentleman sitting at my table asked where I got my mug and when I told him I had made it, he proceeded to tell me that he was Alan Yost and was the tourism director in Greene County and that they were planning to start a Clay Festival and would I consider being part of the event. I said absolutely. Little did I know what a wonderful event I was signing up for.

The Virginia Clay Festival has been happening now for 4 years and I can’t say enough great things about this show. As an artisan, you can expect to work your butt off getting wares or products ready for a show, pack said work into crates, load it all into your vehicle and then go, onsite, and set it all up. Shows are set up in a way that you are assigned a space and you go find the space and set your work up. You sit there during the event and make sales and hope you can make enough to cover the rent of your space. Shows can range in price, depending on the quality of the show or the reputation of the show. A show in DC can run $1200 for two days while a local small town show or vineyard can be $75. Juried shows are the only shows I will do now. If the show is not juried you end up beside someone that is selling something that you wouldn’t purchase for yourself and it feels that your work is diminished if you have to listen to someone selling birdhouses made from beer cans during the whole event. And sometimes you feel that you are paying the entry fee in order to make someone else money and not bring home a profit.

But the Virginia Clay Festival is very different. These guys make the potters feel like we are the show. That CLAY is the show. And they help you get all your “stuff” into the facility allowing you to focus on the setup. And they feed us pizza while we set up and some of the musicians are playing their Irish music for us as well so it really makes the work feel fun. Greene County Tourism has partnered with a lot of folks who are taking the time to care for and help the artisans in this way.

The first year there were about 23 potters from all over the state of Virginia who were juried into this show. Quality work. All of them. And I felt honored to be a part of this show because I have only been a full time potter since 2011. This year, there were 34 clay artisans. Below is just a sampling of some of the work of the artisans. Each artist has a unique style and their booth reflects the works, in many cases, taking on the same characteristic of the pottery. And it isn’t all mugs and bowls, there are lamps, jewelry and sculptural whimsical pieces.

The show combines Irish music with clay demos by the potters, a children’s clay area along with a Raku demo and firing happening outside. Last year they added a couple of food trucks to the mix. But, the details of providing a hospitality room with food, brought in by volunteers for the artists, and host families for the artists, which allows us to not have to pay for lodging while there, and then they provide us a wonderful home cooked meal on Saturday evening. This year it was held at Julie and Scott Winslow’s home which was a very scenic location where we can relax and rest and socialize with each other is just amazing. As a side, there was a wedding going on in their barn while we were having dinner….

And to remind our customers to come back next year, the staff provided us with a can of pencils, with the theme of this year’s event on the can, as if it were a can of fresh food, to give out with next year’s date of 2019 on the pencil. How fun is that? Mark your calendars now for this fun event next September around the weekend of the 21st & 22nd, 2019. And I hope to see you there.

pencil can

 

The Firefly Legend and the Thistle Flower…

There is a family in my area that grew up having to take the thistles out of the farmland so that the other crops could grow. The family members talk of this as a childhood memory that they hated having to do. Now, however, they are older with children of their own and have fonder memories for those times and have embraced the thistle as a type of family crest. At Christmas this past year, I made several items with a thistle design on them just for these family members to reinforce and share that bond. While I was working on a batch of thistle mugs for one of the family members to give as gifts to her many siblings, she wrote me an email which I would like to share part of here….

“I smile in so many ways over these mugs:

knowing the joy you gain through the creation of your hands and the understanding of using the gift God has given to glorify.

I think about what my dad and grandfather must be thinking when they see us reminisce over a flower (weed) we spent days eradicating from the soil.

In anticipation of my mother and siblings when they join in with delight.

and last, I anticipate the envy of the younger generation when they witness how the Thistle has bonded us together, knowing they will want this same bond (but also knowing they would revolt as much as we did when told they have to spend the digging hours to really appreciate the beauty of the Thistle).”

So, I have embraced the Thistle flower and now also embrace their bond of family and memories that it brings but also because I think it is a really cool flower. And I recently made a large pasta size bowl that I wanted to do an unusual decoration on and kept coming back to the thistles. The botanicals that I choose are usually my favorite flowers or veggies but I also went looking for some designs to compliment the thistle when I opened one of my quilt books and found a new story to go with my thistle flower.

Kumiko Sudo does wonderful origami quilts and quilt books. Lots of flowers and textural appliqué patterns. I immediately looked for the thistle, which she did have and found that she had written a legend about the firefly, in reference to the thistle flower. I don’t know if this is a story that she made up or if it is one of Japanese tradition (after a quick google search, there appears to be all kinds of different firefly legends) but I thought it would be fun to share it with you and then show you a quick video of how I used the legend on the bowl that is now in my kiln, firing and will get posted in it’s final form in a day or two.

A Long time ago, a fly thought he would take a nap on a  thistle flower. He loved the softness and the beautiful purple color of the flower. But as he was landing on the flower, the fly accidentally struck his bottom on some of the plant’s sharp needles. Hurt and upset, he waited for the wound to heal. To his great surprise and delight, he discovered that his bottom now glowed in the dark. In gratitude to the thistle for this special gift, he decided to become a night guide for all small creatures. To this day, we can see his descendants, which we now call fireflies, working hard throughout the night.

Kumiko Sudo

And after I got her legend drawn onto my bowl, I added fireflies and thistles and you can watch the bowl spin on my banding wheel. So, stay tuned and after it comes out of the bisque firing tomorrow, it will get a clear glaze and a soft green rim to compliment the legend and the beautiful purple flowers of the thistle. Enjoy!

rabbit, rabbit, rabbit…

I have a couple of Facebook friends who post the phrase “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” on the first day of every month. According to wikipedia, this phrase should be the first words out of your mouth on the first day of the month for 31 days of good luck. I know it is just a silly superstition but I think it is fun, given that I have been doing a lot of rabbit themed work. And of course, back in the fall, I got a pet rabbit to have in the studio to keep me company and bring me smiles. I named her Tang, like the space drink because it is an orange theme name to go along with my Laughing Orange Studio theme. Tang looking at rabbitLast summer I started trying to throw much larger pieces and ended up with some rather large plate/bowl forms. I decided to decorate them with my rabbit theme and add variations of gardens, trees, and flowers. So, I thought I would share some of these pasta bowls here. The first of the month is in a few days so be sure and rise out of bed and let your first words be, “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit”.

Tree and Rabbit1 Thistle rabbit dish farm rabbit Anjelka Tray Crimson Rabbit

My Apprentice, Kara Bowman

 

Kara

Kara, working on her dad’s Father’s Day gift.

 

For the past several months, I have had a wonderful helper to help with all my fairy garden items. Kara Bowman is 14 and will be a freshman at Strasburg High School this fall. Kara loves history and is an avid Disney fan. She also is a crafter of wonderful duct tape items, wallets, flower pens and tri-fold wallets. She lives with her family in Maurertown, VA and lives on the Shenandoah River. Kara LOVES everything JMU (James Madison University) and hopes to attend school there in 2019 studying as a  physician’s assistant. She just finished a medical camp at Shenandoah Memorial Hospital learning CPR, dissecting a human eyeball, and touring the operating room. You can read more about this camp here. Kara loves getting paid with Dairy Queen blizzards but has been a real asset to helping my fairy garden inventory grow.

In the photo above, Kara is decorating a bowl that we made for her dad for Father’s Day. He is a big Baltimore Orioles fan.


 

I put the above text in my newsletter about Kara but, I want to add a full posting about her in my blog. Kara is a very kind and caring individual and during the past 6 months that I have been dealing with the grief of my son John’s death, she has been a wonderful companion to have and to sit with me in the studio. Kara’s mom, Cathy knew that this would be good for me, and also for Kara, to work with me, as an assistant, of sorts.

Kara is good about doing what I ask of her and is a quick learner and has a good eye for detail. She has really enjoyed doing the butterfly chairs and has looked up wonderful butterflies on her phone to replicate the colors and really enjoyed doing birdbaths. This was her first assignment and was very attentive to the different birds that she could add to the birdbaths. After the birdbaths were done, you could definitely pick out the orioles from the cardinals because she wanted them to look like the real birds.

I have introduced Kara to some new forms of music and movies and she has introduced me to everything Disney…. sometimes a bit too much Disney… but we try to share and enjoy each others tastes.

I would like to personally thank Kara, for being independent enough to be trusted and to know that it is okay to ask for something to eat or drink. I am not sure that she will come away from this experience wanting to pursue a career in ceramics but I hope this has added some depth to her education and the understanding of crafting as a business.

Kara has agreed to help me out with the Empty Bowls this year. I plan on teaching her how to make the frogs so that we can pledge a larger amount of bowls this year. The Alliance for Shelter in Shenandoah County lost a vital piece of their real estate to fire earlier in the Spring and hopefully our bowls that we contribute will help the homeless to have better shelter in the future. Kara has a caring heart and that is an organization that she holds dear so together we will do our part to help others.

BFF(Baby’s First Frog) Bowls

Last year, Herb had me make some of his teacher friends, who were expecting, a baby’s first bowl as a special gift for their new baby. I had a lot of fun with them and sold all of them as they were a huge hit. So, I decided to have a few of them on hand for the Holiday Open House on Sunday and so I am sharing those with you today. They are really small but really sweet and as the child grows, they can begin as a bowl for cereal and applesauce and evolve into a snack bowl for cheerios or m&ms and raisins or peanuts. I have six of them. We will see how they are received.